ALA Unit/Subunit: LLAMA
Meeting Type: Program
Cost: Included with full conference registration.
A portion of a university library is currently residing in a shared building with several other university organizations. Each of the units sharing this space are traditional university organizations similar to any other college or university with their individual missions. After two decades of also sharing an administrative structure, the organizations were abruptly divided by the university administration with no prior planning. Unexpectedly, this led to a lack of communication and precipitated a temporary decline in collegiality throughout the ranks. During this period, Critical Race Theory (CRT) and Servant Leadership became the devices used to identify the problem and heal the organization.
Scholars have defined CRT as the study of the intersection of race, law and power. In other words, racism is systemically linked to the legal system. To retain white supremacy, the laws and policies of those in power are derived and maintained to ensure the subjugation of people of color in society. CRT scholars further incorporate the theory that law can be transformed to ultimately achieve equality. While there are many examples of organizations dominated by whites, a higher education institution situated in the southern region is one organism that reflects the racial hegemony of its Appalachian surroundings.
With CRT in mind and during a trying period of uncertainty, exasperated behavior of the men toward the women in the workplace (i.e. “mansplaining”) became amplified and more frequent—especially by male employees with less experience and fewer credentials than the women they affected. While the speakers believe that the intentions were not malevolent on the part of the males, the total absence of women in this group helped generate an environment that was void of female perspectives. In some instances, they were oblivious that their actions were not appreciated and proceeded to make decisions or pursue initiatives that encroached on the other group’s realm. As the library management was largely comprised of women of color, CRT gave the speakers the lens to see these behaviors in a new light both empowering female employees while also generating discomfort.
CRT scholars also stress that while whites can sympathize with different races, only people of color can truly feel the results of institutionalized inequality. As servant leaders, the female managers deployed their own methods for combating a negative climate. The speakers will address the proactive and positive methods within their own interpretation of an appropriate leadership theory that was naturally employed to address the negative climate in the building. Reflecting on their personality types, experiences, relationships, and how they tackled this dispute, the speakers determined that they were most likely servant leaders:
>>When giving day-to-day directives or lengthy project assignments to employees, they do so in a manner that cultivates trust. During the most challenging period of controversy within the library facility, because these leaders had built sincere trust among the library employees, the organization banded together to brainstorm to pursue a resolution at the university level.
>>Diverse opinions are valued and welcomed from all levels of employee regardless of the issue. Instead of eschewing dissent, employee concerns are shared and discussed. This climate helped the organization openly discuss the issue at hand. Incidents that had taken place throughout the departments were shared. In some instances, colleagues were able to pragmatically share their observations in which some employees may have overreacted to an incident without fear.
>>Jealousy has no place in this environment. The act of empowering employees to seek educational opportunities, increases in salary, promotions or even better career options elsewhere comes naturally to both leaders. A multi-level support network helped employees who had experienced issues come forward knowing that they could speak openly. They also knew that their concerns would be carried forward in an effort to resolve the climate.
>>While most organizations insist that personal baggage be left at the door, personal issues are taken into consideration in a compassionate way within reason. Helping individuals cope with challenges in their home lives can yield more positive relationships and outcomes in their work lives. In some cases, the work environment contributed to frustrations at home or demoralized employees who were being hurt the most by the behavior.
>>“Just do it!” isn’t just an athletic shoe slogan. True servant leaders want the people around them to succeed. In the library world, seeing a former employee realize his/her ultimate career or educational goal is rewarding. Likewise, this attitude permeates the library organization allowing employees to come forward and jump into problem-solving mode when needed most.
>>Instead of dictating, they persuade their troops to follow, conquer, or complete various challenges. And of course, if needed, they work with the employees at any level. Knowing that the library leaders were willing to do something about the organization climate instead of ignoring it empowered the workforce to seek their employee rights.
>>Servant leaders are unselfish. While ambition may have helped the library leaders achieve their educational and career goals, they work for the employees and the students—not for themselves. After more than a decade of exhibiting this behavior, when facing this challenge, the library unit acted as one and supported one another during a trying and uncertain time.
Because the over-all climate within the library unit was cohesive, trusting, supportive, and empowered, employees were not afraid to report inappropriate behavior. Because the library leaders were committed to enacting positive change, they pursued proper channels to discuss and resolve the communication problems that precipitated some of the resulting behavior that was insensitive to people to color.
The speakers will expand on the methods attempted to transform the organization in the spirit of Critical Race Theory and the resulting climate change that has been slow-going but nonetheless, positive.